Mar 22, 2020
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Multiple G1-winning millionaire Mind Control among many stars on the Belmont Park work tab

by Keith McCalmont

Multiple G1-winning millionaire Mind Control among many stars on the Belmont Park work tab

Linda Rice updates on Max Player, Montauk Traffic and Nicodemus

Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stables' Mind Control, a dual Grade 1-winner on the New York Racing Association (NYRA) circuit, breezed three furlongs in 36.04 seconds on Saturday on the Belmont Park training track.

Trained by Gregg Sacco, the 4-year-old Stay Thirsty colt posted his first breeze since his rallying score in the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack.

"He went super well within himself and galloped out very strong," said Sacco. "He cooled out great and scoped clean. He continues to train well and he enjoys what he's doing. We'll keep him on his natural progression. He'll work again next Saturday and take it from there."

Live racing on the NYRA circuit is currently on hold due to changing circumstances in the racing community relative to the coronavirus (COVID-19), but more than 1300 horses continue to train at Belmont Park.

"With the livestock, it's a very unique profession that we have. The horses need to eat and to be taken care of every day," said Sacco. "We have 15 horses stabled at Belmont right now and we have more to ship in when we get the green light." 

A Preparedness and Response Plan Committee, comprised of key NYRA staff members as well as representatives from the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (NYTHA), the Backstretch Employee Service Team (BEST), and the New York Race Track Chaplaincy of America (NYRTCA), have closely monitored and assessed developments regarding the coronavirus for the past several weeks to develop key protocols following guidance from the New York State Department of Health to allow training to continue safely at Belmont.

"Everyone is practicing social distancing," said Sacco. "We worked most of our horses yesterday and the clocker stand was virtually empty, which is good. Everyone is being respectful and trying to follow the safety guidelines provided. If we practice these things, it will definitely help us."

Sacco is continuing to keep his stable in running order while awaiting the opportunity to race again.

"We're going to keep horses on their schedules, but we might ease up a little with the uncertainty. Mind Control's work was three-eighths and we had him scheduled for a half-mile yesterday," said Sacco. "We'll take back with some of them. I have a few unraced 3-year-olds that we were going to do gate work with, so we might ease up a little bit on them.

"We just want to maintain their health and make sure they're not coming over the webbing," he added. "It's important to maintain some normalcy in the routine at the barn."

Sacco said he is diligently following coronavirus related protocols and attempting to lead his staff by example.

"It's uncharted waters for everybody. You just have to keep a positive attitude, follow all your safety precautions and not take anything for granted," said Sacco. "We're practicing social distancing, cleaning everything and hopefully everything will run its course. You have to listen to the science and the people that are experts in their fields. I'm in charge of our staff and our horses and the rest I'll leave to the experts and follow all the protocols they're giving us."

Mind Control's NYRA ledger includes a pair of Grade 1 wins at Saratoga Race Course, beginning with the Grade 1 Hopeful as a juvenile and the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens in August.

Sacco had planned to run Mind Control in the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap which was slated for April 4 at the Big A, but the veteran conditioner is keeping an open mind as racing adjusts to changes caused by the uncertainty of the coronavirus.

"I think we're going to weather this storm. We had the Carter right around the corner and you think you're the horse to beat, but health and safety comes first and there will be another race for Mind Control," said Sacco.

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Linda Rice updates on Max Player, Montauk Traffic and Nicodemus

Trainer Linda Rice maintains a bustling barn of 55 horse on the Belmont backstretch and has had a number of stable stars on the work tab over the past week including Grade 3 Withers champ Max Player.

Owned by George E. Hall, Max Player was targeting the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino slated for April 4 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The dark bay son of Honor Code worked seven furlongs in 1:27.20 on March 18 on the Belmont training track.

"He worked really well," said Rice. "We had planned on shooting towards the Wood Memorial and he had been training really nicely into that race."

The Wood Memorial offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers. Rice said the recent announcement moving the 146th renewal of the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown, to September 5 at Churchill Downs could work in Max Player's favor.

"Frankly, I think it might help us," said Rice. "It will give him more time to mature. We didn't get him started until December of his 2-year-old year, so I really think that's going to work in our favor."

Max Player graduated impressively on December 17 at second asking in a Parx maiden tilt contested on a sloppy track. The talented colt demonstrated an impressive turn of foot in the nine-furlong Withers to run down Grade 2 Remsen-winner Shotski for a 3 1/4-length score.

Chris Mountoukis' Montauk Traffic captured the Jimmy Winkfield in February at the Big A ahead of a rallying fourth in the Grade 3 Gotham on March 7. Rice said the Cross Traffic grey has come out of the Gotham in good order.

"We were a smidgen disappointed with the Gotham, but he was running on at the end of it. He's still very green and lightly raced," said Rice.

Rice said she was targeting the Grade 3, $250,000 Bay Shore with Montauk Traffic, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomores slated for April 4 at the Big A.

"The plan was to put blinkers on him and point him towards the Bay Shore, which at this point I'm not sure where that puts us," said Rice. "We'll take it one day at a time, but he's doing very well."

Everything's Cricket Racing and Lawrence Goichman's graded-stakes winner Nicodemus is on hiatus after his rallying second behind Mind Control in the Grade 3 Toboggan. The 5-year-old son of Candy Ride made the grade in May in the Grade 3 Westchester at Belmont.

"The Toboggan really was a heart breaker," said Rice of the nose defeat. "We had to give him some time after the race and he's actually on the farm getting a little bit of rest. Hopefully, he'll be back for a summer-fall campaign."

Notables on the Belmont work tab

Chester and Mary Broman's New York-bred millionaire Mr. Buff worked an easy half-mile in 52.57 on Saturday at Belmont.

Trained by John Kimmel, the 6-year-old Friend Or Foe chestnut was an impressive 20-length of the $100,000 Haynesfield on February 22 at Aqueduct. With a record of 14-6-4 from 36 career starts and purse earnings of $1,0561,536, the 17.2 hands tall Mr. Buff has shown no signs of slowing down.

Mr. Buff is currently on a three-race win streak, all at the Big A, that also includes scores in the Alex M. Robb and Jazil.

Harold Lerner, AWC Stables and Nehoc Stables' graded-stakes winning millionaire New York-bred Pat On the Back worked a half-mile in 50.03 on Saturday on the Belmont training track.

Trained by Jeremiah Englehart, the 6-year-old Congrats chestnut bred in the Empire State by Sugar Maple Farm, boasts a record of 28-9-4-6 with purse earnings of $1,142,582. The popular Pat On the Back made the grade in September with a half-length score in the Grade 2 Kelso at Belmont under regular rider Dylan Davis.

Perrine Time Thoroughbreds' Kansas Kis, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Constitution, posted a half-mile breeze in 49.56 on Saturday on the Belmont training track.

Trained by Ray Handal, Kansas Kis graduated in a January 23 maiden tilt at Aqueduct and followed up with a strong second to Ilchester Cheetah in a February 21 allowance tilt. Last out, Kansas Kis opened up a 3 1/2-length lead at the top of the lane in the Busher Invitational only to be nosed at the wire by Water White.

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